Watchtower JW Family Shunning

Watchtower JW Family Shunning

Another from the “Ask a Former Jehovah’s Witness” mailbag:

My father was disfellowshipped when he was a teen in the 80’s and because of that he and his father do not speak. Ever. Are there any scriptural sources that I could use when speaking to my grandfather about this that would show this is wrong? When I talk with him about it he starts spewing scripture. Previous to July 2002 it was said that “Those who simply cease to be involved in the faith are not shunned. In compliance with the Scriptures, however, members can be expelled for serious unchristian conduct, such as stealing, drunkenness, or adultery, if they do not repent and cease such actions. Disfellowshipping does not sever family ties.” I feel as if my family is being torn apart because of this religion and would like any advice you have to give. Thank you for your time. – Steve B

Your options are limited. Focus on love. You might mention the signs of the spirit (patience, kindness, etc). “Forgive as you would be forgiven” is a central tenet of biblical faith. You could invoke the primary message of Jesus, talk about “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” I would avoid a scriptural discussion, however – he’s too well-prepared and defended for that kind of discussion.

The Jehovah’s Witness group is controlled by a very authoritarian – even totalitarian – organization, and therefore the average JW compartmentalizes things according to a priority of values that puts everything else below the directives of the Governing Body. If New York tells them to avoid your father, that’s just what they’ll do. This is one of the most heartbreaking things about this group, and I wish I had more to offer in the way of strategies.

Unfortunately, for most JWs nothing on earth is more important than securing their place for eternal life on a paradise earth. They don’t seem to understand that a lack of love is the surest way to separate oneself from God, the cosmos, the family, and everything else. He may try to tell you that he does this out of love, that the lack of association is a disciplinary measure to bring your father back into the fold. It won’t be at all obvious to him that this is completely antithetical to Jesus’ message.

Maybe you could get the discussion off religion entirely and talk about the pain and suffering that this is causing you and the rest of the family. Maybe your grandfather’s love for you might be strong enough to override, at least to some degree, his indoctrination. You might also remind him that each person’s spiritual path is their own, and that God sees into the heart. Judge not, lest you be judged.

I don’t have much hope for your success, but it is worth a concerted effort. You never know – maybe you will plant a small seed of cognitive dissonance by being more loving than he is. Take the highest road you can.

I sense your pain and anguish, and I wish kindness, gentleness, and healing for you and your family.


3 thoughts on “Watchtower JW Family Shunning

  1. Sometimes Agumenta Extremis (I’m sure that latin is spelled incorrectly). It means argument from the extreme and it is a method of debate where you take the otherguys point to its final conclusion to show it’s flaws. (it is also a falicy of logic but that’s another story).

    Depending on Grandads personality suddenly “understanding” his argument and then setting it new words so the double think (and trust me indoctrination often is) doesn’t cover it would break through.

    “Oh I understand – you hate my dad because you love him. You reject him to accept him. You despise him to show him kindess.”

    Another method that works better the younger you are is:

    “Grandad why do you hate daddy?”

    (long answer lacking logic)

    “Grandad don’t you love daddy?”

    (long answer lacking logic)

    “But grandad don’t you miss daddy, he misses you?”

    Etc etc.

    (This is pritty much what Heidi suggested).

    You won’t break down the indocrination without knowing it better than he and seperating him from the source. (Kidnap and deprogram is not an option here). So you are far better to keep on at the weakness of logic (double think) and try appealing to emotions.

    One last debaters trick that will probably work well is “Appeal to the Person” where you point to another person as an example. Find yourself another pair of people who are on speaking terms but exist in a similar situation. Point Grandad to them every time and maybe even introduce them.

  2. Great comment, Lord Matt! I think that the raising of cognitive dissonance with these techniques of argument are very helpful. The only problem is that, even if someone can understand that what they are doing is not logical or kind, that will still be of subservient value to the imperatives of Watchtower direction. It may not be caring, but it’s “what God wants us to do” – so ultimately, it may not matter.

    The rule of the organization is more important than ethics and love. It’s part of why JWs become so compartmentalized in their thinking. It reminds me of the concentration camp officer who is a “great daddy” at home after torturing or killing people all day. They have to have a value narrative that divides some kinds of behaviors from others.

  3. The e-mail from the young man concerning his grandfather not talking to his father shows how people have strayed from Jesus’ teachings. Can we think of anywhere in Jesus walk on the earth that he didn’t talk to people. Even his enemies he tried to help by reasoning with them. Judas Iscariot was with him eating the Passover. Jesus’ apostles didn’t even know that Judas was a thief until later. Jesus love for people caused him to help them in any way that he could. Defying the customs of his time he talked to those who were cast off by society. Man’s rules are just that, from men. Jesus’ example is the one to follow, not man’s.

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